Apr 11, 2008

Sears Island - new advisory council will ignore likely container port impacts

Below is a transcription of the April 10, 2008 draft of a "Concept Paper for a Sears Island Conservation Area Advisory Council" that will considered at Friday's meeting of the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee.

The Council would evolve from the Sears Island Joint Use Planning Committee, which in its planning ostensibly reviewed all elements of the proposed joint uses: port, natural areas and educational center.

The new entity, a "Conservation Area Advisory Council" will focus solely on the natural areas and educational center while washing its hands of the element most likely to harm the bay's environment. The element most in need of public oversight - the container port plan. That element will be overseen by....well, nobody but the porties themselves.

But don't worry! The Advisory Council will oversee licensing of the Sears Island 'brand', so one needn't fret about unauthorized Sears Island teeshirts and bumperstickers. The Council would do well, though, to consult with the Penobscot Indian Nation if it seeks to license "Wassumkeag" - the island's name for most of the past 5 thousand years. Its the least they can do, since they've declined to consider protecting the archaeological assets that document the Penobscot's many generations who occupied the island.

Draft Concept Paper for a Sears Island Conservation Area Advisory Council

1. Background
Sears Island, a 941-acre island in upper Penobscot Bay, is owned by the State of Maine and managed under the jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT).

As proposed by the Joint Use Planning Committee, an initiative established by the Governor of Maine, and if approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation, the island will be divided into two different areas: a 341-acre potential Transportation Area and a 600-acre Conservation Area that will be placed under a perpetual conservation easement and managed for outdoor recreation, education, and protection of ecological resources.

Construction and maintenance of trails, parking areas, buildings, and other structures necessary to deliver services for the intended uses are expected improvements in the Conservation Area. Such improvements will be allowed and limited under the terms of the conservation easement and are subject to all applicable local, state and federal land use regulations.

Management of the Conservation Area will likely be conducted under a license agreement between the MDOT and one or more other entities. For instance, an environmental education institution or agency might enter into a license agreement that covered the construction and use of a visitor-education center, while a non-profit organization might enter into a license agreement to manage the trails and lands outside of the building area.

Because the MDOT is neither statutorily charged with managing lands for the uses of the Conservation Area nor has staff and other resources relevant to such management, the Joint Use Planning Committee has proposed that an Advisory Council be established to assist the MDOT in the decision process concerning appropriate management of the Conservation Area. This Concept Paper will outline the role and composition of the Advisory Council.

2. Role of the Advisory Council
The Advisory Council will provide the knowledge and experience of its members to the MDOT with the goal of facilitating effective management of the Conservation Preserve. In its effort to meet that goal, the Advisory Council will review and comment to the MDOT on the following matters concerning the Conservation Area:

• policies and practices concerning management;
• management plans;
• plans concerning buildings and other substantial improvements;
• issues arising from the terms of the conservation easement;
• license agreements; and
• other matters that will arise from time to time that have significant impacts on

The Advisory Council does not have the power to approve or disapprove of final decisions concerning management of the Conservation Area. Its role is to counsel the MDOT in that agency's jurisdiction of the Conservation Area and related management decisions. However, MDOT reserves the right to convey or assign certain decision-making authority to the Advisory Council as MDOT deems appropriate.

3. Composition of the Advisory Council
The Advisory Council will be composed of one representative from each of the following, or comparable, agencies or non-governmental organizations:

• Maine Department of Transportation, which will act as chair;
• Maine Department of Conservation;
• Town of Searsport;
• Town of Stockton Springs;
• Licensee(s) of the Conservation Area;
• Holder of the Conservation Easement;
• Friends of Sears Island;
• Penobscot Bay Alliance; and
• Coastal Mountains Land Trust.

4. Term of the Advisory Council and Schedule of Meetings
The Advisory Council is intended to be a continuing committee in providing its counsel to the MDOT, and is not established with a specific term of years of operation. The Advisory Council will meet as often as necessary to fulfill the role described above, and not less than once per year.
End of draft concept paper

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